Thursday, 25 September 2014

Indy rising: should we push for a Yes Alliance?

A week on from 18 September and the raw feelings of sadness and bewilderment still prevail. After all the hope and all the fear, how can so many of us not feel such emotions? 

Some say it's just the cut-and-thrust of politics. But more know it's a deeper hurt for the loss of something much more visionary. 
Elaine C Smith epitomises the mood:
I am sad that so many in Scotland voted with the rich and privileged and with big business and handed the chance of power back to the British establishment. We have witnessed the full force of the British state in all its glory over the past few months and it has been an unedifying sight....I am also one of the lucky ones. I will go back to a comfortable, happy life and career - I won't be queuing at a foodbank like many of the working poor or worrying how to pay the bills.
Julie Webster, founder of the Maryhill Foodbank, was in tears on Friday, contemplating the lost opportunity to abolish foodbanks in Scotland, and wondering how her clients will now face a despairing future: "Now I feel as if there is no recovery...for the vulnerable groups." (Sunday Herald, 21 September 2014.)

Maryhill registered the highest Yes vote in the whole country, 57%, alongside Provan, with Springburn and other poor and austerity-afflicted Glasgow constituencies returning similar majorities. Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire and Dundee all had Yes majorities.

We should take good heart from such returns, showing the substantial desire for change in areas of most concentrated poverty, from those who have least, and others who see they've nothing to gain from Westminster neoliberalism.    
Yet still the disbelief. Did we really waste this chance? Did that great act of bribery really happen?

For AL Kennedy'Establishment representatives approached a savvy, philosophical electorate with threats, insults and bungs.' #the45plus

And what of other key demographics? As blogger Mark Frankland distils it:
It was an epic betrayal of a generation. Scots voted ‘Yes’ all the way to the age of 55. Had the over 65’s been excluded from the vote, then ‘Yes’ would have won the day by 54% to 46%. 73% of over 65’chose the [status quo] because they had been frightened into doing so. The scandalous dog whistle politics of the Establishment got right into their heads and persuaded them to walk away from their grandchildren. They were told that their pensions were at risk. They were told that they would no longer be able to watch ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and‘Eastenders’. They were told their power and grocery bills would go through the roof.
It's hard being seen-off by the establishment, harder still being beaten-down by parochialism.

Eradicating foodbanks, removing Trident, protecting the NHS and all the other great things this Yes generation aspire to now seems numbingly lost. 

But, from the searing sense of what could have been, the mindset alters, the healing proceeds, and we search for new openings. 

The #45 meme has been a welcome palliative. It's helped keep us connected and sustained. But we can't just stay fixated on that reassuring number.

So many of the 55% will come to regret their vote. Many already have, some bitterly. So it can never be about recrimination, tempting as that might be. It's also, most vitally, about winning No people back and driving up those numbers.

The reactionaries who terrorised Glasgow that dark Friday after the vote may never change. We can't, Yes or No, live under their ugly intimidations. But nor should we hate them in return, staying compassionately aware of how such virulence takes ideological hold, particularly of young men.

The much greater concern and disappointment is with the core middle classes who voted No out of base self interest. Many, of course, crossed their No with sincere conviction that this was the better option. But a lot of those class motives were just shamelessly selfish. It's important to note that truth.

But it's also useful to remember that such people are subject to the same climate of fear and wider culture of selfish individualism. The task here is to show that 'better together' actually means mutual regard, ideas of common weal and really caring for each other. People can still be brought around to a more collective way of thinking.
And if anyone thought that great Yes momentum is dissipating, what of the unprecedented surge in party mobilisation?

SNP membership has gone through the roof, more than doubling in days. From former Labour stalwarts like Tommy Sheppard to many thousands more just sickened by the result, it's indicative of the increasing desire for independence and mass disaffection towards Labour. Substantial new numbers have also now joined the Greens and socialist parties. That tells us all we need to know about how so many now view Scottish Labour, and Labour at large.

For Gerry Hassan, the SNP handover promises another leftward shift:
The SNP will remain centre-stage post-Salmond and their project of self-governance and independence will reconfigure and re-emerge in a new form, content and language. The party will, under the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, undoubtedly shift to the left, focus more on the west and central belt, and aspire to win over more Labour voters.
Let's see. If so, it should include an immediate revisiting of the party's untenable Nato position, new tactical opposition over Trident, and a much stronger climate change agenda.

It should certainly, right now - and particularly following Obama's brazen No intervention - be proclaiming an outright rejection of the West's latest interventionist crimes in Syria/Iraq. 

Whatever unfolds around the SNP, I see many, like me, who don't feel comfortable with machine politics, but who are ready to be an energising part of a common Yes movement that doesn't depend upon party identities.
That politics is grassroots and free-floating, ever-wary of hierarchies. It's not a negation of parties. It embraces them where they're strategically useful and progressively-minded. Indeed, it's that very positive tension between the Yes street and Yes parties that's bonded this dynamic movement together. Having come so close, having tasted the possibilities of change, many newly-politicised younger people in particular now want the real thing. And they don't all see the SNP and conventional party politics as the sole route to that goal.  
So how best now to hold and drive-up that energy? Much reflection is going on within Yes parties and other Yes organisations about new positionings and electoral strategies.

Alyn Smith SNP MEP is in no doubt what needs to come next:
How about an Alliance, a Collective, standing for Scotland at the Westminster elections? Mobilise the Yes vote behind a single Yes candidate and we'll win pretty much every seat. I'm proudly SNP, but under first past the post we only have six Westminster seats, and much as I'd love it, I don't see all the energy of Yes coming to us. Many other organisations deserve to continue; we must help that process and support them to argue our corner in Westminster. How about Women for Independence, National Collective, the Greens, Socialists, Radical Independence and more coming with the SNP under a united banner for the Westminster elections.
We can take a leaf out of the Five Star movement in Italy and the Podemos movement in Spain. They stood not to be politicians but to demand that politicians change how they do business....A common platform will keep the bonds of friendship, engagement and energy going...We cannot go back to politics as usual and the SNP is, after all, not about politics as usual. We do not hold the monopoly on the independence franchise any more - we have to spread that enthusiasm around.
Left-leaning SNP MSPs Joan McAlpine and Bill Kidd have made similar appeals for a Yes Alliance platform.

Radical Independence campaigner Cat Boyd makes the same essential non-party case in urging a Scottish Podemos. For Boyd, "thousands of working-class Yes voters [are] looking for a political home", but "won't find it in the SNP nor in Labour". Instead:
we must create a more diverse polity in Scotland with the views of those who want radical redistribution of wealth and power properly represented, not just in Holyrood but rooted in communities. To do this we will look for inspiration from home and abroad. We need to learn from the likes of Podemos in Spain who emerged out of the Indignados movement and is currently unseating the Spanish Labour Party all over the country.
As Boyd rightly says, "It was not nationalism, nor Scottish identity, nor certainly the SNP that powered the momentum behind the Yes campaign. The truth is that the movement for Yes was powered by class politics."

Jonathon Shafi, co-founder of Radical Independence, offers similar views on how best to express his Yes politics: 'Diversity inspires the independence movement. I will vote tactically in 2015, but I don't support funneling the movement into SNP machine'.

And, indeed, while recognising the SNP's core Yes role, why should it alone reap the 'Yes dividend'?

What purpose is served by sending x more SNP MPs to Westminster - even if, as Alyn Smith questions, that could be guaranteed? Holyrood, with PR, is a different issue, where people feel they have a more democratic part in returning parties and influencing policies. But the rationale of the Yes vote is that it doesn't actually trust Westminster, or its party cabal, to deliver. So why participate in it other than to register a clear numerical statement for a Yes alternative? 

Craig Murray has also called, in this vein, for a Yes Alliance approach, emphasising the wider Yes base, thus qualifying Tommy Sheridan's thoughtful appeal for outright support of SNP candidates in 2015.

In short, there can be electoral cooperation here, but it must be based on the recognition of a wider, radical Yes politics. As Cat Boyd reminds us:
The radical left's role now is to ensure they stay part of a movement for the real and radical social change they voted for...It was not a wave of Scottish nationalism that powered the momentum towards a Yes vote: this was a debate about social justice, economic democracy and an opportunity for radical change.
Whatever unfolds over the coming months, the basic issue is how to use such opportunities constructively in advancing the broad movement and definitive case for a Yes.  

The British state's near-death experience will now concentrate elite minds on how best to stifle that rising demand. Returning to the same party-based politics would only be gifting Westminster and the Union an extended lifeline. 

My own reading of all this may be flawed, and I'm open to any kind of corrective persuasion. But in the same good spirit of political engagement we've seen these past months, the potential of a Yes Alliance strategy should now be widely discussed.

In small promotion of that, anyone similarly concerned might wish to utilise this tweet-sized question for wider distribution:
Should all Yes parties contest UK 2015 as #YesAlliance using same populist appeal of Yes movement to win new #indy mandate? #the45

1 comment:

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I felt the same after Occupy was crushed over here. Crushed by our President Hope and Change and his Department of Homeland Security.

I think you try to hang on to the organization and the desire for change as best you can.